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Civic participation

Civic participation iconBetter decisions are often made when lots of different views are heard, and when the ideas and skills of people are taken into account. We can better identify problems, and come up with more creative solutions. The community is also more likely to agree with changes when they’ve had a chance to influence them. Civic participation is about making sure people have the understanding and the chance to have a say in decisions that affect them.

As part of our first Open Government National Action Plan, we developed a new government framework that helps make sure that people are heard as government makes decisions or delivers services. The framework provides for a range of forms of participation from which public servants can choose and adapt, based on the nature of each issue. We also built new ways for people to have their say in how the Open Government Partnership itself works.

Some ideas about what government could now do as part of the second National Action Plan include:

  • developing ways to better understand how people feel about government and the services it provides
  • providing new opportunities for the public to give government decision-makers feedback on how government policies and services are working, identify problems in our community, and develop solutions
  • building awareness and skills among public servants so they can better understand the community’s opinions and tap into their expertise
  • making a new framework so that Australian states and territories can directly participate in the Open Government Partnership.

Further reading

Discussion questions

  • Is this theme relevant both to the Open Government Partnership and Australia’s local context?
  • Are the possible commitments effective, relevant and ambitious?
  • Are there other possible commitments related to this theme that we should consider adopting?


To participate, you’ll need to register for an account. You’ll then be able to respond to the questions under each of the proposed themes, leave a general comment or respond to those of other participants, and vote on comments.

We expect your comments to be respectful and relevant. As comments are moderated, they won’t appear until they’ve been approved. Comments will close 30 March.

If you wish to make a longer submission, you can email us at ogp@pmc.gov.au. We’ll publish all submissions we receive.

The outputs from this and the face-to-face consultations will be made available to the Open Government Forum. At its meeting in April, the Forum will be asked to assess those ideas with substantial support, and make recommendations to government on prospective themes and commitments. When government releases its draft National Action Plan for public comments in June, it will also provide a response to ideas.

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The Canberra consultations were held on 14 March and were attended by 11 participants from both civil society and government. Key ideas that emerged from discussions relating to civic participation included:

  • support for all of the ideas contained in the discussion starter, noting that many of the ideas needed to be fleshed out in more detail
  • the importance of consultations informing final decision making
  • the need in any consultation process to ensure robust non-digital opportunities for participation
  • the importance of education in civics and information literacy so that people can understand how government decision-making works

civic participation

civic participation

Participants in these consultations also wanted Open Government National Action Plan ideas from other countries and unprogressed ideas from consultations for the first National Action Plan published. These include:

Open and participatory budgeting (NAP1, US, Canada, New Zealand)
Establish a process of participatory budgeting for certain Australian Governments grants and the Australian Government budget, including through:

  • providing greater detail in budget papers, and
  • instituting processes for the public to discuss and help identify community priorities and prospective savings, and provide feedback on budget decisions.

Direct democracy (NAP1)
Strengthen direct democracy by introducing:

  • a capability for citizens to introduce legislation into parliament, and
  • community Estimates-style sessions with parliamentarians.

A fuller list of these ideas can be found in the papers for item 6 for the meeting of the Open Government Forum of 7 December.

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The Perth consultations were held on 16 March and were attended by 9 participants from civil society. Key ideas that emerged from discussions relating to civic participation included:

  • the desirability of ensuring that consultations with citizens are comprehensive and ongoing, descriptively representative, deliberative, and influential, so as to give communities a sense of ownership of their own issues and solutions.
  • the desirability of instituting a high-profile public participation process to build momentum and demonstrate the effectiveness of such a process.
  • the need to reconsider the frameworks governing public servants to allow them to better tailor place-based approaches and make decisions with regards to a community’s specific needs, unencumbered by national bureaucracies
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